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Suicide Prevention Is Part of the Right to Life

ActivismSuicide Prevention Is Part of the Right to Life

As Such, It Is a State Duty Switzerland Recognized

In memoriam: Nathalie, Solange, Lambert, Donatella, René, Francis, so many others…


The best prevention of suicide is to be able to live, in dignity, a serene and gratifying life. To choose to live and to lead a happy life is a personal choice reinforcing this prevention process.

Suicide is the world’s second leading cause of violent deaths, after car traffic. It kills more than war and homicides together. It is most often avoidable. This goes got to say that we need to value our own lives as well as the ones of others.

Suicide prevention is incumbent on all of us; valuing life, our lives and those of the ones around us, giving them meaning. It is also the responsibility of the State to provide the information, environment and infrastructures needed for the prevention of suicides.

Since 2014, the World Health Organization has been running a global suicide prevention program, for which the organization stresses that suicide prevention is strengthened by the realization and respect of human rights; in particular the rights to life and health, but also to decent living conditions.

Since 2016, the Center for Global Nonkilling has been campaigning with States, through the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, to ensure that States recognize suicide prevention as part of their obligations under the right to life.

Switzerland has just accepted this at the last session of the Human Rights Council in March. This is only a first step in the right direction because in some countries suicide is still punishable. However, Switzerland did not agree to ban assisted suicide. While most suicides can and shall be prevented, the right to life also entails, in the Swiss view and in case of a difficult ending of life, the right to choose one’s own death.

In the long run, a UN resolution or some international case law will be needed to confirm that State has a duty to do suicide prevention and to have this admitted on a global level.

We would like here to thank the delegations of Haiti, Angola, Lebanon and Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama, as well as Switzerland, for making this recognition of the State’s duty to prevent suicide possible.

For a fulfilling life, for all!

The WHO program on suicide prevention: http://www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/world_report_2014/en/ .

The Swiss suicide prevention program on the website of the Federal Office of Health.

List of institutions doing suicide prevention in French speaking Switzerland.

The Universal Periodic Review brings all Member States of the United Nations, to the Human Rights Council every four and a half years for an assessment of the human rights situation in their country. In a peer to peer procedure, all other States can make recommendations to the State under review, which he can note or accept.

The Universal Periodic Review of Switzerland ended on the 15th of March. For the results of its third cycle of the UPR, see the report of the task force group (suicide is mentioned in several places in the report, but in particular for the recommendations accepted in paragraphs 147.73 to 75). http://www.ohchr.org/FR/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/CHIndex.aspx

For a video of our intervention at the Human Rights Council: the UPR report approval of Switzerland, Thursday 15 March 2018, chapter 15.

The Center for Global Nonkilling deals with the right to life at the UN by providing analysis on all aspects of life.


Christophe Barbey, Irenist (peace activator, theory and practices of peace and peace science), poet (smile cultivator) and lawyer (prevention and solutions) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He lives in the Swiss Alps and works sometimes in Geneva. Main representative at the United Nations in Geneva for the Center for Global Nonkilling and for Conscience and Peace Tax International. Expertise on the place of peace in constitutions and the human right to peace, on countries without armies. More of his poetry is available here.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 7 May 2018.

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